Mrs. Lindbergh's diary; The War Within and Without: Diaries and Letters 1939-1941, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. $14.95.
This final volume of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's letters and diaries covers the prewar and war years, during which she and her celebrated husband took their stand against the Roosevelt administration and interventionist lobbies at home and abroad, to serve as spokesmen for the isolationist position, notably through the organization America First. It was a time when Mrs. Lindbergh, used to the adulation of Charles Lindbergh's devoted public, heard him denounced as a Nazi and found herself separated by an ideological gulf from all those she considered "her kind" -- intellectuals, writers, artists.Skip to next paragraph
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Readers might, therefore, expect to find descriptions of the personalities, the emotional climate, and political landscape of that largely forgotten America -- the America reluctant to enter the war. We might also expect elucidation and vindication of Lindbergh's coolly elitist stand and of Mrs. Lindbergh's own position, which, while not exactly her husband's, was more obscure for being conditional and emotional.
The explanations are there; whether the positions, now, appear to have been cogent, realistic, admirable, or otherwise, they were obviously sincere. The history that we expect of the book is, however, lacking. "It is not so much history or a factual wartime record," Mrs. Lindbergh says in her introduction, "as it is simply a personal story."
The volume is largely domestic, concerned with having babies, engaging nurses and secretaries, finding suitable rental properties on Long Island, Martha's Vineyard, and so forth. At that crucial period Mrs. Lindbergh, rather than moving amid the broad spectrum of social and political America, lived, as she had before, in the retreat of a very sheltered, very privileged world -- a bit of the old Europe whose end she was concurrently forecasting in her book, "The Wave of the Future." I am speaking of the world of maids and country houses, of afternoon tea, genteel employments, and social obligations.Mrs. Lindbergh's book could not be a record of wartime America, because she was hardly living in America at that time, but rather in a series of private enclosures, like those of foreign diplomats. Not a history, then, the book is important and intriguing for reasons Mrs. Lindbergh herself may not recognize.
One is always a little skeptical of the diaries of individuals who not only publish during their own lifetimes but who admittedly write with the full intention of publishing. Can theirs be honest, disinterested ruminations, however sincere their intentions?
In Mrs. Lindbergh's case, the difficulties of total honesty were compounded by the knowledge that her entries, by her own wish, were regularly perused by their chief subject. Charles Lindbergh emerges as the central figure of these diaries, while the author appears as the Devotee, the True Believer, the Keeper of the Flame. Here lies the value and fascination of the book. It is an unwitting, ingenuous self-portrait of a highly sensitive, intelligent woman who, wishing to commit her life to a great purpose, but lacking the self-confidence to attempt the creation or embodiment of that purpose herself, dedicated her life to the service of one she could look up to. While disapproving the practice in others, Mrs. Lindbergh had herself elevated her husband to the status of a god. These diaries are fascinating because they reveal a sensibility at war with itself -- espousing one conviction while wistfully detailing the secondhand arguments against its own spontaneous, intuitive convictions. Wiser, more far- sighted, more pragmatic, better informedm -- these are the adjectives that Mrs. Lindbergh used during her painful attempts to rationalize her adherence to and support of her husband's opinions when they violated her own judgment or sensibility. Something larger than oneself. Something to believe in.
It's not unusual, but it is destructive. For once having pledged blind faith , true belief, often without the knowledge or compliance of the one inspiring it , believers are inevitably forced, at some point, to admit the humanity and fallibility of their god -- tantamount in their minds to betrayal -- or to lose themselves in a maze of rationalizations and self- delusions.
Mrs. Lindbergh's diaries and letters from 1939 to 1941 are the record of a woman engaged in doing just that. They are compelling, poignant and, in this respect, totally revealing and honest.